Stage Raw: Mondo-Judeo
Steven Allen Theater curator Amit Ittelman says he was mesmerized by U.C. Berkeley professor Mel Gordon's stories of "bizarro Jewish history." He describes Gordon as "the professor I wish I had." Though he never took a course from Professor Gordon, he heard the scholar's stories and was mesmerized. On August 1, starting at 11 a.m., Mel Gordon will present a series of his lectures lasting six hours, with breaks, on "outsider Jewish culture." Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (across the street from Barndsdall Park.) Info here,
Check back tomorrow for a list of shows being reviewed this weekend.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for July 2 - 8, 2010
Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas
Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.
OPENING THIS WEEK
MASTER CLASS Terrence McNally's Tony Award winner about opera diva Maria Callas. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
THURGOOD Laurence Fishburne is Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in George Stevens Jr.'s biography. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; opens July 7; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 208-5454.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; opens July 3; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (858) 481-2155.
BLACK COFFEE Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens July 7; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 364-0535.
GRIFFITH PARK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Free performances of Othello (July 8-Aug. 1) and Much Ado About Nothing (Aug. 5-29) by the Independent Shakespeare Co. Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr., L.A.; opens July 8; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (323) 913-4688.
HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.
HEART & SOLE Lynn Ferguson's one-woman show about a schoolteacher in Scotland who falls in love with a fish. L.A. Film School, 6363 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Wed., July 7, 8 p.m., sstproductions.org. (323) 860-0789.
MUSIC OUT OF NOWHERE (A Love Story of the 1930s) A nostalgic look back at the Great Depression. Music, lyrics, and story by Bruce Lloyd Kates. Unitarian Universalist Church, 12355 Moorpark St., Studio City; opens July 3; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru July 17. (818) 769-5911.
NEW YORK ANIMALS In rep with Four Places. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens July 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (323) 960-4424.
PEACE IN OUR TIME The Antaeus Company presents Noël Coward's post-war tale. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; July 6-8, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 3 p.m., Antaeus.org. (818) 506-1983.
SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; opens July 2; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 512-6030.
SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS Overtone Industries' contemporary opera, directed by O-Lan Jones. Vacant Culver City Car Dealership, 8840 Washington St., Culver City; opens July 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18, overtoneindustries.org...
THE WHO'S TOMMY Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; opens July 3; Sat., July 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 4, 5 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (714) 777-3033.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
BEYOND A French cabaret show with dancers, aerialists, acrobats and a smoky torch singer., $35 Tuesday-Wednesday, $55 Thursday-Sunday. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. 818-508-4200.NEW REVIEW
CHiPS THE MUSICAL Those masters of the mashed-up musical parody, the
Troubadour Theater, have always played by their own comedic rules. Rule
No. 1, invoked repeatedly in this uneven send-up of NBC's kitschy,
late-'70s police drama, is to follow the laughs wherever they lead. And
if that means repeatedly tossing out the script when it isn't hitting
on all cylinders -- as is the case with writers Rick Batalla and Henry
Phillips' roughly tuned lampoon -- and substituting it with the
Troubies' trademark repertoire of quick-draw ad libs, self-mocking
asides, audience-harassing gibes and an escalating onstage
hugger-muggery, so be it. Batalla and director Matt Walker fill the
famously skintight CHP uniforms (courtesy of costumer Sharon McGunigle)
of swaggering freeway heroes Ponch and John as they ride down a
marauding gang of lesbian ecoterrorists led by "synthetic albino" KG
(Beth Kennedy). Meanwhile, the new political realities are shaking up
the station, as sexist supervising sergeant "Getrear" (Mike Sulprizio)
is sent off for sensitivity training and replaced with the sexy, Pam
Grier-like ballbuster, Carmel (Michelle Anne Johnson). The 14 loony
production numbers (under Eric Heinly's musical direction), neatly
skewer the original series' generic, funk-flavored, adult-contemporary
score along with its absurdly insipid storylines -- talk about shooting
fish in a barrel! -- and even produce the occasional gem, like Caroline
Gross' hilarious, must-be-seen, aerial-birthing flashback dance.
Troubadour Theater Company at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive,
Burbank; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.;
through July 25. 818-955-8101. (Bill Raden)
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES Audience-participation musical for children and their families, music by Phil Orem, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz and David Wechter. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 851-7977.
GO GRACE & GLORIE Sensitive direction by Cameron Watson and distinguished performances by Beth Grant and Melinda Page Hamilton transform playwright Tom Ziegler's predictable tear-jerker into genuinely compelling theater. In a virtuoso turn with not a false note, Grant portrays Grace, an illiterate and opinionated nonagenarian who's outlived her husband and five sons, and is now living and dying alone in her backwoods Appalachian cabin. Enter Glorie (Hamilton), a hospice volunteer with an MBA from Harvard (and a wardrobe from Bloomingdale's), determined to care for the crotchety old lady despite her cantankerous objections. Grace's primitive living conditions and trust-in-the-Lord philosophy dismay the sophisticated Glorie, whose do-good resolve falters after she burns herself on Grace's wood-burning stove and confronts a rodent under the sink. The holy-rolling Grace, on the other hand, is appalled by Glorie's blasphemous language and feminist thinking. Gradually, these two very different people find common ground as they uncover each other's secrets and become open to mutual solace and support. Because Grant's character has the best lines and the choicest opportunity for laughs, she frequently steals the limelight, but Hamilton's less flamboyant persona is no less skillfully drawn. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's admirably detailed set, embellished with props by MacAndME, enfolds the drama with a rich atmospheric dimension. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 18. (818) 558-7000. (Deborah Klugman). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18. (818) 558-7000.
HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have guided director Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress version of Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced tragedy. There's certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or political allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century productions. Nor is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between faith in purpose and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives its hero's famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's Hamlet, neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt; Peebler attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the recently converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience as if from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more pissed off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved by what it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by contrast, comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his hand in the cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a nefarious regicide. Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet vulnerable Ophelia, though even here the method of her madness seems more a response to the murder of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer) than any jilting by Hamlet. Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast clip, but some exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of too many critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap scene -- all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July 3, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
HOWLIN' BLUES AND DIRTY DOGS: THE LIFE OF BIG MAMA THORNTON Sunday Scott is singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 11. (562) 494-1014.
THE HEIGHTS Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator, composer-lyricist
and Broadway star, reprises his lead role in the 2008 Tony winner.
Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,
2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru July 11. (213) 365-3500.
See Theater feature.
LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE Center Theatre Group presents this black comedy about a hard-boiled terrorist lured home by the news that his cat is in poor health., $20-$65. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., July 4, 1 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (213-628-2772.
GO LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE Ilene Beckerman's book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their "intimate collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the display near the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy envelope for a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded Mother's Day card. But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in onto a pile of similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little number, a J. Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse text and barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the clothes she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan constructs the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded ensemble wears black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old faithful) while sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads as Beckerman, handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's renderings situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron, and chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues' transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 208-5454.
A SHAYNA MAIDEL Barbara Lebow story of a Polish immigrant reunited with her sister. Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., July 3, 2 p.m.; thru July 3. (562) 432-5934.
THE SOCIALIZATION OF RUTHIE SHAPIRO Anyone with personal memories of the 1960s might be forgiven for not recognizing the lunar landscape that playwright Barbara Nell Beery's colorless coming-of-age drama passes off as 1967 L.A. For a watershed year in such a culturally iconic decade, one could reasonably expect to find at least one issue of Tiger Beat or a even a Davy Jones pinup in the bedroom of Beery's 12-year-old heroine, Ruthie (Claire Partin). But designer Jeff Rack's generic jumble of set pieces is as devoid of character-defining details as Ruthie is of the hormone-roiled obsessions of real-world adolescence. Instead, Beery's "memory play" about a secular-Jewish math prodigy's quest for popularity at her new junior high school is the kind of anodyne, life-in-a-vacuum fairy tale seemingly designed to reassure parents that their little darlings aren't dreaming up anything darker than comically corny routines for the school talent show. Beery's cumbersome device of having Partin step out of character as the adult Ruth to redundantly re narrate already-played scenes proves hazardous to director Susan Morgenstern's attempt at close-focus intimacy. Worse, it wastes valuable stage time, which would have been better spent developing the implicitly imploding marriage of Ruthie's mother (Constance Mellors) and an absentee father. By the time Ruthie pays the price of being popular -- by ostracizing her naively bigoted outcast of a best friend (Heather Keller) -- the moment feels like a forced, bathetic footnote rather than the innocence-shattering act of cruelty that the grown-up Ruth claims it to be. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 11. (No perf July 4.) (323) 851-7977. (Bill Raden). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11, (No perf July 4.). (323) 851-7977.
GO SOUTH PACIFIC So this tragic hero, a stern, sensible Princeton-educated U.S. Marine named Lt. Joseph Cable (Anderson Davis) finds himself in the South Pacific amidst a herd of guys from the U.S. Navy. He'd love to get some intel on what the Japs are up to, because World War II is still in play. On the nearby mystical island of Bali Ha'i (mystical because that's where all the young daughters of the local French families are hiding), Cable falls for a native daughter named Lait (Sumie Maeda), who looks about 12 years old, but she's sure a good kisser who gently strokes his hair -- and probably other parts as well. "I know what you're thinking," he chides skeptical onlookers; sure he does, because it is what we're thinking, too: You're a perv, dude. She's Cable's fantasy lover because she gazes at him adoringly and doesn't talk back. In fact, she doesn't talk at all, which is even better. Cable's anthem-in-song of love to barely pubescent Lait is "Younger Than Springtime," which is sort like an homage to the trafficking of children from exotic, faraway places. Rodgers' and Hammerstein's musical classic, presented by Lincoln Center Theater, is almost stunning for the window it offers onto the perverse America psyche, with its gardens of optimism, salvation complexes and sexual fantasies that come wrapped in a kind of national can-do solipsism. Michael Yeargan's classical storybook sets come with a backdrop of the expansive Pacific, idyllic and isolating, to unify the various settings and to conjure an American homeland far beyond the horizon. Barlett Sher's staging is a gift for a number of reasons. From this production, you can almost understand how we got into the quagmires of Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Furthermore, his terrific ensemble performs with a vivacity that's nonetheless bereft of the showboating that comes attached to so many musicals. Even with Christopher Gattelli's musical staging with choreography that sashays and snaps, there's a sobriety and sincerity that reveal the musical for exactly what it is, and the 1950s era of Americana that spawned it. Terrific leading performances by Rod Gilfry and Carmen Cusack as the expat Frenchman and U.S.Navy ensign/nurse who play out the boy-gets-girl, boy loses girl -- maybe they stick to the formula, maybe they don't. (Steven Leigh Morris). Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru July 17. (213) 628-2772.
THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., July 4, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 4 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ANGELOS Tony Perzow's new comedy set in a neighborhood barber shop; preceded by Dating Stories. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru July 11, angelostheplay.com. (310) 807-4842.
BACK TO ONE Alex Monti Fox's darkly comic philosophical journey. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A.; Sun..; thru July 11. (323) 273-4022.
BEHIND THE GATES Annika Marks delivers a mesmerizing performance as an angry American teenager whose exposure to an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect in Israel revolutionizes her life. A crack baby who grows into a problem child, the 17-year-old punkish Bethany (Marks) harbors venomous rage toward her adoptive middle-class parents. Unable to cope, they ship her off to an Israeli boarding school for girls, where they hope she'll absorb some modesty and discipline. One day, wandering the Jerusalem streets, Bethany encounters a rabbi (Oren Rehany) from the fundamentalist Haredi community; he invites her home for Shabbas dinner. The susceptible girl is struck by the seeming harmony within his family; later, she undergoes a ritualistic conversion and joins their sect. All this emerges at the top of playwright Wendy Graf's discrepant drama: The central character turns out not to be Bethany but her mother, Susan (Keliher Walsh), whose psyche radically transforms as she searches for her lost daughter within the strangulating confines of the Haredi ghetto. Directed by David Gautraux, the play deals with the spell ancient Jerusalem casts on some; most fascinating is the glimpse it offers into a cultish antifeminist society -- measuring its values against the strengths and weaknesses of our own. Unfortunately, these thematic virtues are undermined by a soap-operatic element that plays out around Susan's marital problems and her personal insecurities. Walsh offers a sensitive portrayal, but other performances are weaker and less nuanced. Ultimately, the narrative never recoups its initial power, despite Walsh's efforts. (Deborah Klugman). Lee Strasberg Institute, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 3. (323) 960- 5772.
BROOKLYN, USA A true story based on real events of Murder Incorporated, the enforcement arm of America's crime syndicate. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (323) 469-3113.
NEW REVIEW THE
FANTASTICKS It's mostly forgotten, and seldom acknowledged by the
producers, but Tom Jones'/Harvey Schmidt's musical was loosely adapted
from a once-popular play called The Romanticks, by Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac.
The sweetly sentimental first act examines the sappy idealism of young
lovers, Matt (Michael David) and Louisa (Madison Mitchell), but Act II
turns darker, as they encounter bitter experience and disillusion.
Though the original Off-Broadway production gave full value to the
pain, most renditions since, including this one, have soft-pedaled and
conventionalized it, making the piece seem lighter than originally
intended. This version, by a new young company called The Tribe,
suffers from some clunky staging in the limited space, but their youth
and freshness offer some compensation. Director Christopher Chase
elicits engaging performances from his cast. David and Mitchell are
fine in the earlier scenes but don't plumb the depths of the later
ones. Christopher Carbo is a laid-back El Gallo, Tony Oliver and
Alissa-Nicole Koblentz score comic points as the manipulative parents,
and Darryl Maximilian Robertson and Stacy Lynn Baker are effective as
hammy roving players. Setareh Khatibi deserves special mention as the
ever-engaged, confetti-dispensing Mute. The Complex, 6470 Santa Monica
Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 7:30, through July 11. Produced by The Tribe.
(661) 547-1173, theTRIBEproductions.org/tickets. (Neal Weaver)
FORBIDDEN ZONE: LIFE IN THE 6TH DIMENSION "What was banal can, with the passage of time, become fantastic," Susan Sontag famously noted. At least such is the hope of adaptor Michael Holmes and director Scott Leggett in their anarchic musical tribute to film director Richard Elfman and composer Danny Elfman's failed, 1980 dadaist sci-fi fantasy, Forbidden Zone. A crude, lewd and urgently outré attempt at a John Waters-like burlesque of middle-class mores, the movie stands as an exercise in clownish impudence; its story of a Venice Beach family's adventure in a bizarre, Alice in Wonderland dimension they enter via a portal in their basement, is almost beside the point. Holmes happily excises some of Elfman's more gratuitous racial and anti-Semitic caricatures while contributing judicious narrative tweaks, primarily in expanding the character of Satan (a leering Marz Richards) into a lipsticked, vamping, Tim Curry-esque narrator/emcee. Leggett and his talented production-design team provide the polish, including the glam dazzle of Wes Crain's costumes and Kat Bardot's makeup, and the cartoon razzle of Tifanie McQueen's scatological set. The pleasure comes courtesy of musical director Ryan Johnson and his 14-piece band, Natasha Norman's Max Fleischer-inspired choreography, and an enthusiastic cast that sings and dances the collection of mainly early-20th century pop tunes only lip-synched in the movie (Bryan Krasner's rendition of the Yiddish Theater classic, Giter Brider Itzik, is a standout). The problem is in Holmes' cultist fidelity to his source, which carries over into Elfman's sneering contempt for his characters, thus robbing the show of the heart and pathos it so desperately needs. (Bill Raden). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 10. (310) 281-8337.
GO FOUR PLACES The family outing on display in Joel Drake Johnson's unsettling comedy resembles a gathering of ornery, wounded jackals. Siblings Warren (Tim Bagley) and Ellen (Roxanne Hart) motor to their parents' Chicago home to take their diminutive, gray-haired mother Peggy (Anne Gee Byrd) out for a what is presumably a pleasant lunch. At first blush, this seems innocent enough, but something about Ellen's painful, labored smile as she hugs the wheel, and Warren's cold, mummified expression, suggest that something is amiss. It isn't long before the moral underbelly of this clan emerges along with some ugly revelations. Mom's harmless exterior drips away with each rum and Coke she knocks back (and every trip to the bathroom, where she pees blood), and there emerges a subtly vicious female, a practiced manipulator who delights in tormenting her children with reminders of their lacerating miseries and failures. But an even darker secret surfaces concerning Peggy's alcoholic, invalid husband (who never appears onstage but is a towering presence, nevertheless), and rumors that she is abusing, and even attempting to murder him. The manner in which Drake tells this story -- blending humor and stark ugliness, while exploring themes of sibling rivalry, marital infidelity and even euthanasia -- is thoroughly engaging and held in sharp balance by director Robin Larsen. The characters are fully fleshed out, both in the writing and the performances, as disturbing for their and their vulnerabilities as for their anger. Rounding out a superb cast is Lisa Rothschiller. (Lovell Estell III)., (323) 960-4424. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25, roguemachine.com. (323) 422-6361.
THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING Absolute Theatre and Full Circle Theatrics presents a gender-bending modern-day fairy tale. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1...
GO THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN Gods are no help to man in Bertolt Brecht's bleak parable of a play (translated by Eric Bentley with music by Elizabeth Swados). The question Brecht poses: How does one stay a good person in a bad world? The hapless pivotal character Shen Te (Lauren Lovett) is a former prostitute, who uses her limited funds to help anyone who asks for it -- and everyone does. Her most shameless exploiter is her lover, Yang Sun (Benny Wills), who feels no compunction about draining her of her last penny. To protect herself, the lovesick Shen Te devises an alter ego: She poses, in male drag, as her tougher-minded capitalist cousin, Shui Ta, who takes over her affairs when she's "away." The ruse works for a time, but eventually Shen Te must abandon it and continue opting to do others' will even when it runs counter to her self-interest -- which it always does. Director Charles Otte has assembled a panoply of impressive technical and onstage talent to present an ambitious and artful staging that communicates the chaos, corruption and senseless suffering inherent in the playwright's vision. Most striking are Alex Wright and Dean Mora's sound design and original music, respectively (the music is live), and the arresting video imagery (Otte's design), which at times even simulates the town of Setzuan's drenching melancholic rain. The problem is that Brecht's epic theater deals with archetypes, and that's the plane on which Lovett and most of the ensemble so capably perform. The result is a dramatic piece worthy of respect rather than one to which I responded emotionally. (Deborah Klugman). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 17. (323) 882-6912.
GROUNDLINGS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT In a departure from the Groundlings' trademark irreverent, take-no-prisoner sketch comedy that made laughing as involuntary as breathing, this new show, directed by Karen Maruyama, is distinctly low-key and only funny in patches. The evening's biggest disappointment were the two improv segments that bracket the show, where comedians do routines based on audience suggestions. The absence of ease, craft and imagination was palpable. These failings were apparent in other sketch routines as well. "Caltech" has a crew of seismic scientists engaging in silly wisecracking and a overwrought spate of physical comedy and demolition derby with their chairs. "Next Step" finds Charlotte Newhouse and Scott Beehner as teenagers trying to get their sexual desires in sync, but there isn't much wit. A husband becomes vexed trying to relate to his wife in "I'm Listening," which is equally unfunny. "Concert Footage" is a pleasant surprise. After a Taylor Swift concert, Damon Jones playing a P.R. guy interviews and coolly insults members of the audience. Michael Naughton is still one of the funniest guys around, and his talents are evident in "Mirror Image," where a special software program allows you a glimpse of what you'll look like in the future, and "Animal Stars," where he is one of a pair of animal trainers. (Lovell Estell III). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 934-9700.
Hello Out There and The Dustbowl Revival: An Evening of Theater and Music William Saroyan's Hello Out There with music from The Dustbowl Revival. Bar Lubitsch, 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Mon., Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 4. (323) 654-1234.
THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.
HEPBURN SINGS! Kevin Dulude IS Katharine Hepburn!. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 18, plays411.com. (323) 654-0680.
I AM A TREE "An unstable new comedy" by Dulcy Rogers. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 17. (323) 962-0046.
IT'S A MUSICAL WORLD Bob Baker's 1978 marionette revue, with stops at an Enchanted Toy Shop, a teddy bear's picnic, and an Independence Day finale. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 11. (213) 250-9995.
GO THE JESUS HICKEY Billboards, potato chips, freeway underpasses, tree stumps and pigeon coops are just some of the places Christ's image has appeared, or alleged to appear, in recent years. In Luke Yankee's ticklish comedy, the Savior-sighting takes place in the Emerald Isle city of Sligo, and comes by way of a girl as pure as the Virgin mother herself. Agnes Flynn (Anastasia Lofgren) is a wholesome teenager who shares a home with her imperious grandmother (Barbara Tarbuck), and her gruff, barfly father Sean (Harry Hamlin). They seem like a happy bunch, in spite of money problems due in large measure to Sean's drinking and troubles on the job. But a miracle is in the offing, as one night Agnes and her young beau Seamus (Aaron Leddick) slip away for some quiet time together, and he plants a "love bite," on her neck. As it turns out, the hickey is the face of Jesus and has miraculous healing powers, even curing the dim-witted Father Boyle (Tom Killam) of chronic back pain. In Act 2, we see Agnes transformed into an angelic figure and a media sensation, with all that implies, making the rounds in Europe -- and making a lot of money for her avaricious father. Unfortunately, the fame comes with a price for all concerned that may be too much to pay. Yankee's well-written script nimbly skirts the boundaries between morality play, satire and comedy. Performances are quite good under Yankee's direction. Tarbuck is especially engrossing as a saintly woman with a penchant for foul language. Katselas Theatre Company at the Skylight Theater, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., LA., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 18. (310) 358-9936. (Lovell Estell III). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11, katselastheatre.org...
KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT The aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard, by Moiss Kaufman and membes of the Tectonic Theatre Project. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,
L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 7. (323) 465-4446.
GO LEIRIS/PICASSO "We try not to have so many guests. It disturbs what's left of the neighbors," says Michel as he stumbles around his Paris home in the dark, falling down stairs, knocking over crudités, and scalding himself on a teakettle. It's all rather amusing ... until you realize that it's 1944 and there's a Nazi patrol outside. This just the sort of dark humor that characterizes writer-director David Jette's farcical take on an actual evening at the house of Michel Leiris (Michael Bulger) when members of the French Resistance produced Pablo Picasso's play, Desire Caught by the Tail. The play itself is nonsensically awful (but oh, how the man could paint), so Jette has instead written about the circumstances surrounding its production, a sort of play without a play. In it, Leiris, his wife Zette (Jenny Byrd), Albert Camus (Tyler Jenich), Jean-Paul Sartre (Patrick Baker), Simone de Beauvoir (Amy K. Harmon), and Picasso's mistress Dora Maar (Melissa Powell) scramble to set up while they wait for the master. Besides their own petty but hilarious squabbles, they also have to deal with a Nazi (Joseph L. Roberts) who keeps popping up, as well as the leader of the resistance, Sam Beckett (Dan Gordon). Jette's direction keeps all the moving parts well synchronized as the actors enter and exit Juliana de Abreu's well-designed, multi-door set. The ensemble is strong overall, though Baker's over-the-top bombastic caricature of Sartre and Bulger's sincerity as the put-upon host stand out. And while the work isn't historically accurate, it succeeds because, as Camus says, sometimes "happiness feels better than truth." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org (Mayank Keshaviah). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 389-3856.
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 960-4412.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Vanguard Repertory Company's irreverent adaptation of William Shakespeare's comedy. Byrnes Amphitheater, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 St. Katherine Dr., La Canada Flintridge; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru July 11, vanguardrep.com. (818) 745-3327.
THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
MARY LYNN SPREADS HER LEGS Mary Lynn Rajskub's new one-woman show. See GoLa., $20. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (323) 666-4268.
GO MORE LIES ABOUT JERZY This West Coast premiere of David Holmes' fascinating drama about whether truth lies in facts or in fiction hangs on the title performance of Jack Stehlin as Jerzy Lesnewski -- obviously based on the late Polish novelist-screenwriter Jerzy Kosinski, and the scandals surrounding what he eventually claimed was his fictional Holocaust memoir, The Painted Bird. Either by omission or design, Kosinski neglected to clarify at the outset that the memoir was anything but autobiography -- until, according to Holmes, Poles from his past (Jordan Lund and Cameron Meyer) showed up in New York, peeved that the famous author was discrediting the very people who had protected young Jewish Jerzy from the Nazis. Aside from a swirl of wives and mistresses (Meyer and Kristin Malko) orbiting the womanizing author, the play drives along the investigation by journalist Arthur Bausley (Adam Stein) -- once a fan and eventually an investigator -- clearly troubled by Jerzy's continuing penchant to play fast and loose with the facts. They won't ask if he lying, Arthur goads him, They're only going to ask why is he lying. Holmes plays just as nimbly with the facts as Kozinski did, which would be an affront if Holmes were really out to discredit his protagonist, as the Village Voice did in 1982. (That discrediting is a central issue in the play, which anachronistically unfolds between 1972 and 1974.) In the Voice, Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith published an article accusing the five-time best-selling author not only of having denied co-authorship or editor credit to the English "translators," who may have actually written The Painted Bird, based on Kozinski writings in Polish, but they also claimed that Kozinski plagiarized his short story (made into film), Being There, from 1932 Polish best seller The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma -- which few people outside Poland knew about. Holmes' Jerzy has a potent defense and an almost tragic downfall -- made all the more so by Stehlin's gregarious, petulant and charismatic interpretation, with just the right tinge of Polish dialect. Argues Jerzy: Truth does not lie in facts but in symbols and myths and legends -- an argument he could have lifted from W.B. Yeats, who said much the same. Holmes' journalist tries to psychoanalyze why Jerzy would make stuff up so habitually -- perhaps a war trauma or something -- and Jerzy ridicules that process as petty psychoanalysis. The degree to which Jerzy may be right is the degree to which this play gets very interesting, veering from its dangerous trajectory of celebrity bashing. David Trainer directs an efficient production with enough momentum to compensate for its tangled relationships. But it's the play, and Stehlin, that are stage center. And speaking of truth, they probably shouldn't clink those plastic champagne tumblers when toasting. That rings even less true than many of Jerzy's excuses. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (213) 389-9860.
THE OBLIVION SERIES Justine Warrington's look at the modern world as seen by the modern woman. Plus: comedian Ruthy Otero's one-woman show Crazy Is What Crazy Does. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 465-4446.
OKLAHOMA! The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, presented by Musical Theatre of Los Angeles.
MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 960-7735.NEW REVIEW
OPUS Because classical music can be such a sublime art form, one tends
to regard those musicians as inhabiting a more celestial sphere than
the rest of us. Playwright and classically trained violist Michael
Hollinger confutes that notion with this percipient drama, which
examines the political and emotional fracas within a string quartet. In
Hollinger's canny script, the tensions generated among members of a
prominent musical group have been exacerbated by an affair between two
of them: Elliot (Christian Lebano), a domineering egotist with little
tolerance for opposition; and Dorian (Daniel Blinkoff), a
supersensitive artist with a history of emotional problems. When Dorian
up and quits prior to a prestigious gig at the White House, he is
replaced by Grace (Jia Doughman), a conscientious novice with
tremendous talent and the inner aplomb to withstand Elliot's needling
and increasingly truculent demands. Directed by Simon Levy, the drama
begins with a studied manner before launching into full dynamism, as
the particulars of the players' dilemmas and entanglements come into
focus. In a solid ensemble, Doughman is noteworthy for her character's
impeccable truth; likewise Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan,
the down-to-earth second violinist who reacts with growing
consternation and dismay to snowballing events. The performers mime
their concerts in admirable sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with
input from musical advisers Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling).
Complemented by designer Ken Booth's lighting, Frederica Nascimento's
backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal colors, seems reflective of the
quartet's rich but cloistered world. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain
Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 25. (323)
663-1525. (Deborah Klugman)
THE PINK CHATROOM Latina lesbian musical, book by June Vertucci and Trudy Ardizzone, music by June Vertucci. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 11, casa0101.org. (323) 263-7684.
GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.
ST. NICHOLAS Written by Conor McPherson, performed by Michael McGee. SFS Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 24. (323) 463-7378.NEW REVIEW
QUEEN IN A MOBILE HOME Michael DiGaetano and Kevin A. Mahoney's pair of
monologues twirl on and around Scenic Consultant James Spencer's
bifurcated set of a Bakersfield trailer and a local-occupancy hotel.
These are lived in respectively by a former sorority queen, Grace
(Amanda Weier), and her ex, now down-and-out husband, Dennis (Colin
Walker). Act 1 belongs to Grace, who pretty much explains the story of
her life, with a brief interlude for a scene with her dotty real estate
agent "friend," Judith (Caitlin Renée Campbell), who's trying to
persuade her to sell the trailer in order to purchase a local home.
There's also a nerd Boy Scout (Conor Lane) drop-in to this gentle
comedy as though from a Christopher Durang farce. Judith has fantasies
of being a country singing star in Las Vegas, and she's saving her
pennies. Under Paul Kampf's direction, the play accrues almost no
momentum because of Weier's show-and-tell interpretation, which leaves
little to the imagination, subtext or the humor that Weier keeps
straining at. She broadcasts every attitude and opinion of this
frustrated hausfrau, resulting in a parade of the obvious. Weier was
terrific and stylish in this theater's earlier production of Light Up the Sky,
so this would appear to be an issue of guidance rather than talent. Her
former Hubby takes focus for Act 2, retelling the same events from his
perspective. Walker's performance is comparatively understated and wry,
but his account is almost identical to Judith's, so even the Rashomon
structure feels pointless. His conflict with friend Woody (Tom Burrus)
brings the production to life, but it's late in the game, in a play
about being late in the game. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica
Blvd., Hollywood; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; through July 15. (323) 882-6912.
(Steven Leigh Morris)
GO TRACERS Thirty years after its Los Angeles debut, writer John DiFusco's antiwar drama retains its relevance and power. Written collaboratively in the 1970s by DiFusco and seven other Vietnam vets, and directed by Christina Howard with insight and skill, it portrays the trauma of young military recruits plucked from mainstream American life and thust -- inadequately trained and poorly equipped -- into the nightmare of combat. Howard, displaying a metaphysical perspective, stages the production on a deep, cavernous proscenium. Prior to curtain, an intense, almost suffocating, scent of incense permeates the theater; meanwhile, for perhaps 20 minutes, the six "trainees" jog in military unison, the rhythms of their booted tread being ominous and haunting. When at last the performers do, individually, speak, it's in a darkness resourcefully illuminated by handheld flashlights; indeed, throughout the play, the lighting design (consultant Tiger Reel) registers as a quintessential element of the spectacle. The talents of Howard's adept ensemble collectively emerge in a sequence depicting the recruits' initial training under the command of an abusive drill sergeant (the terrific Tucker Smallwood), who addresses them as "maggots" while forcing them to undergo arbitrary punitive discipline. Once in Vietnam, the men medicate their brutalized psyches with dope, alcohol and infantile horseplay -- understandable given their tasks, which include sorting through body parts to try to match limbs with torsos. While not every component of this production is unimpeachable -- the sound design (Howard) and vocal sound track, effective in part, can be intrusive -- the imaginative production is compelling. (Deborah Klugman). L.A. Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., Studio 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (213) 680-0392.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYSNEW REVIEW
GO ALL MY SONS If even a thread of a
silver lining can be found in the BP gulf oil-spill madness, it might
just be that the appalling incident has breathed new life into Arthur
Miller's powerful tragedy about the twin evils of reckless capitalism
and false sanctimony. Director Kiff Scholl's powerful and well-acted
production never overtly channels the spill -- but the parallels
between the cabal of greedy oil-company CEOs and the dark heart of
corruption that lie at the center of the family in Miller's play are
apparent. The play concerns seemingly genial war-parts manufacturer Joe
(Mark Belnick), whose family life is splintering ostensibly over the
fact that his beloved but emotionally fragile wife, Kate (CaroleAnne
Johnson), is unwilling to give up believing that their son Larry, dead
in a war plane crash, is still alive. Meanwhile Joe's other son Chris
(Nicholas S. Williams) is plotting to marry beautiful Annie (Lauren
Dobbins Webb), the daughter of Joe's former partner, who's serving a
prison term for sending faulty plane parts to the front. Of course, the
real truth of how those faulty parts got to the front is far more
horrible -- and ultimately tragic to all concerned. Staged in a theater
so small it often seems to creak at the seams of the play's aching
themes of rage, disgust and greed, Scholl's sturdy production is
unflinching, with the intimacy only adding to its beauty. The
ensemble's vivid and psychologically nuanced characters lead to the
feeling that we "know" we "know" these people, like friends -- from
Belnick's backslappin', bonhomie bloat-spouting Joe, whose "big man"
attitude is quickly abraded into weasel-eyed oiliness, to Johnson's
beautifully fragile but increasingly darkly complicit Kate. Webb's
sweet, then fierce turn as Annie becomes surprisingly complex as she
ultimately wields a weapon that puts the final nail in the villain's
coffin -- while Williams' shift from dorky rich-boy idealist to
ferocious avatar of justice is strikingly powerful. Raven Playhouse,
5223 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;
through July 25. (323) 960-4420. (Paul Birchall)
NEW REVIEW AMADEUS
Photo courtesy of The Production Company
as Theophilus (from the Greek) on his birth certificate, Mozart's
middle name can be interpreted as either "lover of God" or "loved by
God." Antonio Salieri clearly believed the latter, and his jealousy of
Mozart fuels the drama in Peter Shaffer's 1979 award-winning play. As
court composer, Salieri (Peter Swander) has the favor of Emperor Joseph
II (David Robert May) and admires Mozart's music -- until he meets the
young prodigy. Mozart's (Patrick Stafford) sexuality and vulgarity
drive the devout Catholic wild, and as Salieri can't reconcile the
philistine with the ethereal music he creates, he becomes determined to
destroy Mozart. In that quest, Swander often speaks of passion, yet it
rarely feels as if his character possesses the passion his words
suggest. Part of this may have been director August Viverito's desire
for a slow build, even though it does eventually pay off in Act 2.
Stafford's Mozart, on the contrary, is id perfectly personified, with
occasional glimpses of the genius hiding behind the schoolboy pranks.
Danielle Doyen, who plays his wife, Constanze, pairs well with
Stafford, and like the rest of the cast, is capable. However, her
1980s, Madonna-style outfits, along with Mozart's gold pants and the
emperor's raspberry zoot suit, are questionable choices by designer
Shon LeBlanc. While for Salieri "a note of music is either right or
it's wrong," for me the show had a pleasant melody but not one that
stuck with me for long. The Production Company at the Chandler Studio
Theatre Center, 12443 Chandler Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 p.m.; through July 31. (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com (Mayank Keshaviah)
ARCADIA Written by Tom Stoppard. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 31. (626) 256-3809.
BABY Music by David Shire, lyrics by Richald Maltby Jr., book by Sybille Pearson, based on a story by Susan Yankowitz. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11. (818) 700-4878.
COMEDY OF ERRORS The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company kicks off its 14th Annual Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival with this tale of mistaken identity involving two sets of identical twins separated at birth., $15. California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks; Thurs.-Sat., 6:45 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 6:45 p.m.; thru July 18. 805-493-3455.
FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF Ntozake Shange's 1975 choreopoem. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, plays411.com/forcoloredgirls. (818) 990-2324.
THE GOLDEN AURORA Steve Fechter's story of love between a man and man's best friend. Alliance Repertory Company, 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (818) 284-6799.
IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.
IT'S TOP SECRET A new "Marx Brothers" musical comedy by Muro & Davis. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 11, itstopsecretthemusical.com. (818) 508-7101.
NEW REVIEW GO KING LEAR: THE MADMEN
Photo by Ed Krieger
old loon hasn't looked so good in some time. Bart DeLorenzo's staging
for Antaeus Company's Classicsfest 2010 comes with two casts -- "The
Fools" and "The Madmen." I saw the "The Madmen" and must reserve
comment on the uberconcept until checking out "The Fools" this coming
week. No need to reserve any enthusiasm for Harry Groener's Lear.
Though his silver beard still doesn't help Groener look a stitch older
than 60 (Lear is supposed to be 80-plus), his gives a magnetic
interpretation filled with surprises. But first, he renders the words
sparklingly, with clarity and sensitivity. When his Fool (JD Cullum,
also great -- nimble and smart without being a smart-ass) grills Leaer
with riddles, Groener's Lear listens and responds with a childlike
innocence that is a cloak for growing despondency. And it's that
sojourn toward spiritual oblivion that Groener carves with such
intrigue, step by step, with alternate bursts of rage and defeat. He's
magnificent and ably matched by Allegra Fulton's richly textured
Goneril, who conjures memories of Estelle Parsons, mingled with the
late, local actress Pamela Gordon. Gregory Itzin's Kent is grand, as is
Nick Cagle's Oswald. Less so some of the supporting players, who render
comparatively callow and shallow renditions compared to the masters at
the helm. DeLorenzo stages a modernist interpretation that starts with
Napoleanic military chic (costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg) -- all
those boots stretching up to the thigh -- and evolves to contemporary
desert warfare attire. No, this is not an imposition or a gimmick. It
fits snugly into the play's expedition into the surreal, in a work
about aging and senility, the blessings and curses of time. DeLorenzo's
staging suggests that what is unfolding is the history of our times,
through ellipses of power and its abuses. He's on firm terra ether.
Antaeus Company at Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N.
Hlywd.; in rep with "The Fools"; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 &
7:30 p.m.; through August 8. (818) 506-1983. (Steven Leigh Morris)
PATRIOTISM UNLEASHED! Sketch-comedy show, produced by Theatre Unleashed. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs., 9 p.m.; Sat., 10:45 p.m.; thru July 31...NEW REVIEW
PRAYING SMALL Clifford Morts' intelligent drama about one man's
struggle with alcoholism speaks compellingly of love, loss, the quest
for self-forgiveness. An alcoholic named Sam (Morts) with a good job
and a loving wife (Tara Lynn Orr) loses both. Filled with rage but
unwilling to seek help, he's finally picked up by the police -- and
only then does he begin his long, slow climb back to sobriety and
self-respect. Relayed in nonlinear flashback, the play rivets our
attention through the depth and breadth of the central character, an
intrepid, introspective Everyman with a strong sense of irony, who
references Thomas Wolfe and repeatedly mulls why it is that one can't
go home again. There's humor here, too. The likable Morts delivers a
dynamic performance, supported by a strong ensemble that includes Rob
Arbogast as Sam's former drinking buddy, a sad fellow who sinks to the
dregs of existence and never finds his way out. Designer Lacey Alzec's
black, minimalist set comes off as unduly oppressive, while Coby
Chasman-Beck's lighting effectively underscores the play's various
shifts. Victor Warren directs. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd.,
N. Hlywd.; Fri- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 .p.m.; through July 18. (818)
508-7101, ext. 7. (Deborah Klugman)
PRISCILLA'S PERFECT DAY Family musical about magical crayons, book by Diana Martin, songs by Richard Levinson. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 a.m.; thru July 17. (818) 700-4878.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 6, 7:30 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (323) 769-5566.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS Robert Harling's story of six Southern women. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru July 11, (No perf July 4.)...
TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare isn't usually the hottest ticket in town (that honor currently belongs to In the Heights),
but that's more the fault of buttoned-up high school standards that
refuse literature teachers the freedom to explore and explain the
rampant bustier-and-trouser unbuttoning in the First Folio. Director
Jeff Soroka continues modern theater's attempt to unclothe the plays in
Theatre Unleashed's production of the comedy that, typical of
Shakespeare, derives its plot from mistaken identity. Sprawled
drunkenly between two of his harem at the start of the show, Shawn
Cahill's Orsino is one of the most animalistic incarnations of a
Shakespearean character in recent memory -- the audience smells before
it sees him. Yet he rises both to the heightened language and
demystifies it with a bold physicality; Darci Dixon, as Viola, has a
fine command of the language, but her energy is so contained and her
reactions so muted, she seems to be performing for the camera as
opposed to the stage. Fortunately, the show's jesters -- Thomas W.
Ashworth as Feste, Paul Bond as Sir Toby Belch, and Jim Martyka as Sir
Andrew Aguecheek -- are respectively as witty, bawdy and stupid as
intended; and Noah James Butler's excellent turn as the fraught
Malvolio provides the prissy tautness to Cahill's alpha-male
dispassion. Though Soroka's eye is on upping the sexual ante with his
staging, unintentionally comical modern-dancing belly dancers and a
boring, throwaway final scene (ah, Shakespeare's ever-problematic
wrap-ups) leave the audience answering the eternal conjugal question,
so often inspired by the Bard, with the reply: "No, that wasn't so good
for me." The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through July 31. (818) 849-4039 (Rebecca Haithcoat)
URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.. (818) 202-4120.
USS PINAFORE In addition to directing this production, Jon Mullich also did the adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore to the Starship Enterprise. This obviously includes restringing the lyrics and even song titles, so that "He Is an Englishman" becomes "He Is an Earthling Man." The concept is a mash-up of Star Trek and Galaxy Quest -- with accompanying jokes on both -- all played upon designer Tony Potter's terrific starship brig set. The transference of Gilbert and Sullivan's social satire into a few quips on our pop culture feels like a reduction of scale but nothing compared to the reduction served up in the tinny sound track. Delivering the goods with confident glee, this excellent ensemble deserves better. In fact, this would be a sinking ship were it not for the ensemble's charisma and the first-rate performances and voices of some key players, including James Jaeger's physically nimble, sonorously voiced Dick Deadeye -- imagine French Stewart as a lizard man. Jesse Merlin's Captain Corcoran is also magnificent, the embodiment of swagger, with facial muscles locked into a smirk and a voice that just keeps going. Ashley Cuellar's musical chops are similarly apparent as the Captain's daughter, Josephine. Her stage presence is perfectly adequate, but her voice hits the moon. (Steven Leigh Morris). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 11. 1-800-838-3006.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
ALL CAKE, NO FILE "Johnny Cash Prison Tribute Comedy Cooking Show/Concert," written and performed by Donna Jo Thorndale. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 838-4264.
CASH ON DELIVERY Michael Cooney's farce about a Social Security cheat. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11. (310) 454-1970.
A CHORUS LINE The classic musical about 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line., $23, $18 students/seniors. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 25. 310-828-7519.
HARLOW GOLD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.
GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (310) 399-3666.
NEW EYES Yafit Josephson's autobiographical one-woman show. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 8:30 p.m.; thru July 15, neweyesplay.com. (310) 500-0680.
TWELFTH NIGHT/JULIUS CAESAR Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Point Fermin Park, 807 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 548-7705.
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